Warm spring days conjure up thoughts of floating down a lazy river under a canopy of towering cottonwoods, the world a million miles away. Filtered sunlight dapples the waters of the Verde River with a playful show of light and shadow. Through the trees are occasional glimpses of golden hills stretching into the distance. A red tail hawk rises slowly on a thermal in the deep blue sky overhead. A sudden swirl in the shallows reveals a river otter diving for lunch. A gentle riffle at a bend in the river commands brief attention, and a quick one-two with the paddle sends them through the chute with a cooling splash and a satisfied smile. The paddling lesson an hour ago served them well and they catch the eye of the guide who flashes a thumbs up. They settle back and become totally immersed in the sensual ebb and flow of the current and, for a moment at least, are the river; not just observers; an integral part of the natural world.
This splendid reverie is broken as on the banks up ahead appears a Tuscan farmhouse atop a low hill covered with grape vines. They stare somewhat unbelieving at the scene: lazy river, blue sky, vineyards, farmhouse, and wonder where they really are. The boat scrapes bottom as they come ashore and gather with friends in the cool shade. A brief walk brings them into dazzling sunshine as they stroll up a stone pathway through the vines toward the farmhouse. Inside they are greeted by the proprietors of the winery who stand with bottles ready for the tasting, some snacks nearby as accompaniment. Walls of glass look out onto the expansive deck, the vineyards and the tumbling hills beyond. They swirl the first white, a viognier, take a sip and sink back a little deeper in overstuffed chairs. Wherever this is, they are very happy to be here.
This moment of bliss happens daily in the Verde Valley of Central Arizona, compliments of Sedona Adventure Tours and Alcantara Vineyards. The Water to Wine Tour is a three and a half hour trip that includes a leisurely, guided float down the Verde in a single or double Funyak, a very-easy-to-master craft that makes the experience just the right amount of thrilling. It is immediately easy to see that the Verde is the only designated Wild and Scenic River in the state. An hour on the water culminates at Alcantara, where tastings include a variety of reds, whites and pinks in a beautiful setting overlooking the vineyards. Round trip transportation from Sedona is included. For accommodations try the Sedona Real Inn & Suites, with great rates, complimentary breakfast, free wifi and a great location on the west side of town, just minutes from the Verde.
It is the best of the old world and the new and is a great way to spend a spring or summer day.